Army could deploy in Edinburgh to fight winter

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THE ARMY could be deployed on the streets of Edinburgh to battle the invasion of ice and snow which brought much of the city to a standstill.

City of Edinburgh Council chiefs confirmed top level talks are ongoing over the prospect of having soldiers – who more recently had to cope with the ferocious heat of Afghanistan – to take on the winter weather.

Hundreds of streets in the Capital remain impassable after the worst snow fall since 1963 turned to hard packed ice, despite a home guard of some 600 council staff and contractors trying their best to repel the conditions.

Now a decision involving the Scottish Government, MoD and city fathers is to be made on if it is appropriate to call in reinforcements from barracks at Redford.

It is thought the move will be dependent on what funds are available to the cash-strapped authority.

Councillor Robert Aldridge said: “The people of Edinburgh would expect us to do everything to remove the snow from residential streets as quickly as possible, while we continue the vital work of keeping the city’s main thoroughfares open.

“It is not a done-deal but we have to look seriously at this option.

“If the Army is able to help it won’t come cheap but we believe it’s a price worth paying to bring relief to our communities.”

Mark Turley, the Director of Services for Communities, added: “We haven’t concluded our discussions yet so none of the details have been firmed up.

“But I would hope we can move forward with this innovative plan in the next day or so.

“In submitting our request for assistance I have stressed the extreme circumstances being faced by communities in the south and west of the city, and especially the urgency of ensuring that vulnerable people have access to health and care services.”

The Council believes it has already brought in more contractors than any other local authority in Scotland to help deal with the exceptional snowfalls, which are the worst the city has seen in nearly 50 years.

Up to 30 inches of snow have fallen in parts of the capital. Despite constant gritting, ploughing and other snow clearing work, by hundreds of staff, fresh heavy snowfall on Monday has set back the Council’s 24/7 efforts in the previous week.

Approaches for Army assistance have been channelled through the Scottish Government.

The 3rd Battallion The Rifles, 52 Brigade, are currently stationed at Redford on Colinton Road.

But more detailed discussions will take place directly between the Council and the Army to draw up a battle plan.

Meanwhile a decision is expected this morning on whether or not enough has been done to re-open the M8 motorway westbound.

It has been closed between junctions one and five since Monday.

Police and government ministers have today again re-iterated their plea for people not to attempt journeys unless vital on safety grounds after some people were stranded for 17 hours in cars.

Temperatures in Edinburgh plummeted to -14C this morning with the West Lothian area not expected to rise above -6C all day as gritting work continues.

Strathallan in Perthshire saw lows of -18C last night.

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